Only two months into the year and Attachment follows on the heels of The Offering as not only the second religious-themed horror movie, but the second religious horror movie rooted in Jewish tradition. Not surprisingly, religious themes are no stranger to the genre. Plenty of horror movies weave superstition and folklore into stories revolving around a protagonist questioning (or lacking) faith. But Attachment looks to set itself apart with its focus on romance alongside folklore. Critical consensus has been largely glowing.
Maja, a washed-up Danish actress, sparks a new romance with Leah after a chance encounter in a bookstore. When Leah suffers a strange seizure, Maja accompanies her back to England to meet her traditional Orthodox Jewish mother, Chana. Despite her best efforts, Maja struggles to gain acceptance from Chana, whose overprotective care of Leah becomes increasingly strange. As Maja learns more about Jewish superstitions, she begins to fear that something’s very wrong with Chana.
Attachment Resists Its Horror Roots Until An Effectively Chilly Finale
In spite of what seems like traditional horror fare involving possession and exorcism, writer and director Gabriel Bier Gislason structures Attachment into what often feels like two different movies. For one chunk of its runtime, Gislason puts the focus on the burgeoning romance between Maja and Leah in a way that feels like a quirky romcom. While there’s immediately tension with Leah’s mother, Chana, the tone feels removed from conventional horror. As Gislason introduces familiar horror tropes, there’s still some ambiguity around the director’s intent. Is this a supernatural horror movie or is Attachment borrowing from the genre to tell a more psychological story about co-dependency?
As Gislason introduces familiar horror tropes, there’s still some ambiguity around the director’s intent.
Depending on what you want from the thriller, audiences may be elated or disappointed once the more traditional possession elements turn up. There’s lots of build-up in the third act, but Attachment avoids jumps and overt visual horror. Instead, Gislason lets that tension build up to a short yet effective confrontation. What works quite well here is the focus on more subtle elements of terror. In its depiction of a Dybbuk and possession, Attachment never overextends itself and it’s a better movie for it. However, its tonal shift and pacing requires patience – and the finale does reward viewers who invest in the story.
Attachment Gives Way to Some Horror Conventions, But Never Loses Its Grip on the Relationships That Drive the Story
Though it inevitably (and perhaps necessarily) turns to some familiar horror conventions in its final act, Attachment remains a powerfully emotional story in part due to Gislason’s screenplay and its three lead performances. With a minimalist focus on its horror elements for the first half, Attachment feels like two different movies. That is, Gislason initially focuses on the cute romance between Maja and Leah followed by Maja’s occasionally humours attempts to ingratiate herself with Chana. One couldn’t be faulted for thinking they were watching an indie romantic comedy. But there’s traces of horror atmosphere throughout the movie. As such, once Gislason begins to intersperse more odd pieces to Chana’s behavior, even dropping the mention of a Dybbuk, it doesn’t feel too jolting.
With a minimalist focus on its horror elements for the first half, Attachment feels like two different movies.
All of this focus on the relationships between the three primary characters – particularly Chana’s codependency with her daughter – heightens the finale’s impact. There’s less focus on the story components of the reveal during the climax’s exorcism. Specifically, Gislason keeps things surprisingly low-key, avoiding the more flamboyant parts of genre convention. Instead, Attachment allows the excellent performances of Josephine Park, Ellie Kendrick, and Sofie Gråbøl to carry the moment. It’s heartbreaking scene that elevates the thriller and justifies the content and tone of the first half.
Attachment Rewards Patient Viewer With Its Emotional Climax
Certainly not as experimental as other early 2023 horror releases (Skinamarink, The Outwaters), Attachment succeeds as an impressive blending of traditional horror elements and indie romance. Though its first act often feels like anything but a horror movie, writer and director Gabriel Brier Gislason expertly builds in mystery and suspense. When the scares finally ratchet up, there’s a sense of urgency to the story aided by the emotional core and performances of the three principal characters. The end result is a moving horror-romance that is an early candidate for consideration as one of the better releases of the year.
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